New York Times almost faces reality on guns in 3D printer era

(AP Photo/John Locher)

I don’t expect a lot out of the New York Times, particularly when it comes to guns.

We’ve seen not only how biased a publication they are, but we’ve also seen what happens in their newsroom if they try to even approach some subjects fairly. They’ve had uprisings there for even attempting to report the flip side of the trans debate, for example.


So, when it comes to guns, we’re not likely to see anyone there try to report on the topic in anything but an anti-gun stance.

This is a shame, because they recently ran a story about full-auto switches, and it was a golden opportunity for them.

These makeshift machine guns — able to inflict indiscriminate carnage in seconds — are helping fuel the national epidemic of gun violence, making shootings increasingly lethal, creating added risks for bystanders and leaving survivors more grievously wounded, according to law enforcement authorities and medical workers.

The growing use of switches, which are also known as auto sears, is evident in real-time audio tracking of gunshots around the country, data shows. Audio sensors monitored by a public safety technology company, Sound Thinking, recorded 75,544 rounds of suspected automatic gunfire in 2022 in portions of 127 cities covered by its microphones, according to data compiled at the request of The New York Times. That was a 49 percent increase from the year before.

“This is almost like the gun version of the fentanyl crisis,” Mayor Quinton Lucas of Kansas City, Mo., said in an interview.

Mr. Lucas, a Democrat, said he believes that the rising popularity of switches, especially among young people, is a major reason fewer gun violence victims are surviving in his city.

Homicides in Kansas City are approaching record highs this year, even as the number of nonfatal shootings in the city has decreased.

Switches come in various forms, but most are small Lego-like plastic blocks, about an inch square, that can be easily manufactured on a 3-D printer and go for around $200.


That’s right. They can be 3D printed, which means the chances of actually stopping them is slim-to-none… and slim left town.

The report also notes that this coincides with the rise of so-called ghost guns, which isn’t entirely wrong. While unserialized, homemade firearms have been around for decades–and homemade guns long existed before guns had serial numbers–the proliferation of these kinds of guns has grown in recent years, generally corresponding to the rise of media reports about them.

But full-auto switches were already growing without the breathless media hype.

Yet there’s another avenue to this we need to talk about.

Since the 1930s, federal laws have tightly restricted ownership of machine guns outside of the military and police departments. In 1986, Congress banned the production of new machine guns for civilian use, making them even more uncommon in the years that followed.

Devices to turn firearms fully automatic have existed for years, but they had not been a major concern for the authorities until recently.

In 2019, federal agents began seizing a significant number of switches imported from China, said Thomas Chittum, a former associate deputy director at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who now oversees analytics and forensic services at Sound Thinking.


So while 3D printing is part of the issue, another part is that these are coming in from China–along with a bunch of other devices that seem designed to circumvent federal gun laws such as “solvent traps” we often see advertised on social media–and have been illegal for decades.

In other words, the laws long precluded their sale–Glock didn’t even enter the market until just a few years before the 1986 full-auto ban was passed–and yet criminals are getting their hands on them with frightening regularity.

Sure, the problem is likely overstated. We don’t have the full context of how many of these are being recovered by police, nor any data on their use.

Still, the overall point is that the New York Times almost recognized a harsh fact about guns in this day and age. They had a golden opportunity to recognize that even the tightest gun control regulations on the planet, such as those surrounding full-auto weapons, are wholly insufficient to stop a determined criminal who just wants something he’s not allowed to own.

Gun laws don’t stop criminals. They only stop the average citizen from having a given thing lawfully. Bad guys are getting full-auto weapons despite all the rules and regulations against them, all while law-abiding citizens look at the cost of buying any of the remaining legal full-auto weapons and balk at the cost.


Unfortunately, the New York Times wasn’t interested in looking that deep. They’d rather tout the alarmism than recognize they might have been wrong in their anti-gun push.

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